Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Law

Our business and contractor clients have had numerous questions about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.  The primary concern for employers is how to handle employees who have a prescription for the use of marijuana, or claim to have a prescription.  Employers must be careful in addressing this issue, and unlike before the Act a positive drug test showing the presence of marijuana is not necessarily a basis for discipline.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act prohibits an employer from terminating an employee (a patient who has been prescribed medical marijuana) for use of medical marijuana unless: (1) It would cause the employer to lose a monetary or license related benefit under federal law or regulations.  Many Federal contracts (and related subcontracts) contain drug testing provisions and limitations.  You should check your contracts and consider this provision in drafting your company’s drug policy.

Also, under the Act an employer cannot discriminate in the hiring, termination or employment of a patient (who has a valid prescription for marijuana) unless: (1) The patient used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana while at or during work.  That means that marijuana is not allowed at the workplace (or worksite) and a patient may not use the drug while at work.  However, a patient may use marijuana before work as long as the employee is not “impaired” while at work.

A patient is not considered to be under the influence (impaired) of marijuana solely because of the presence of marijuana in his/her system.  So, what does it mean to be impaired?  There is no easy answer under Arizona law, partly because there is no statutory definition of how much marijuana in a person’s system constitutes impairment.  The best bet is for an employer to create a drug policy which defines impairment (and to enforce the policy in a uniform manner) and identifies factors that will be considered in determining impairment.

For further information about Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act or other business issues, please contact our attorneys (Pat Durazzo, Neal Eckel or Eric Hawkins) at 520-792-0448 or  Our attorneys work in the fields of business law, employment law, construction law and corporate law, and are available to assist your business.


Written by

Eric Hawkins received his B.A. from the University of Arizona, and his J.D. from the University of Arizona College of Law. Eric has been with the firm since his admission to the bar in 2006, and became a partner in 2011. Eric practices primarily in the areas of Construction law, Employment law, and Business law. This work includes contract preparation and review, partnership agreements, construction collection claims, Registrar of Contractors matters and disputes both in and out of the courtroom. Over the past five years Eric has successfully litigated several cases involving business fraud, construction defects, and employment disputes. Eric has worked with the Alliance of Construction Trades in Tucson, and represents subcontractors and suppliers in the organization. Eric has written numerous articles on various issues including indemnification, construction contracts, insurance law and employment practices.